Citroën SM - click above for high-res image gallery

Well now, this is exciting. The iconic Citroën SM turns forty years old today. First introduced at the Geneva Motor Show on March 11, 1970, the SM was incredibly advanced for its time. In fact, there are those who would argue that it's still way ahead of the curve.

A couple of basics, if you will. SM stands for Sports Maserati (though some argue it stands for Sa Majesté in reference to the DS – i.e. Goddess, i.e. La déesse'). While probably not the wisest financial decision of all time, Citroën purchased Maserati in 1968. As such, they were able to use the new 90-degree V6 Maserati had developed. Essentially a V8 with two-cylinders lopped off, the SM's V6 (also shared with the Maserati Merak) is one of the most fantastically complex engines ever conceived. How does three timing chains strike you?

But the SM was much more than a powerful (for the time) engine in a sleek and sexy, Robert Opron designed aircraft grade aluminum body. The SM featured the world's first variable-assist power steering system (known as DIRAVI) which is so insanely complicated that we can't even begin to describe it to you (it involves heart shaped cams). Also, the SM featured one-turn to lock. Needless to say, the DIRAVI was tied into the SM's oleopneumatic system. What's oleopneumatic? A fancy French way of saying an oil-based hydropneumatic system.

Besides the steering the suspension, headlights, brakes and transmission were all run off the SM's hydraulic system. Headlights? Yup. The SM featured six headlights behind a beautiful glass cover, two of which turned with the steering wheel, and six could pivot up and down depending on rear ride height. In other words, if the rear of the car was loaded down, the lights would automatically adjust to point straight ahead so as not to blind oncoming motorists.

Back in 1970, not only was the SM the fastest front-wheel drive car in the world (the factory claimed 137 mph, but many took the cars up to 145 mph), it had the shortest stopping distance of any car, period. Credit the dual-channel hydro-brakes and the fact that the front rotors are inboard. In fact, rumor has it that until the Porsche 959 showed its face in 1986, the SM was the production deceleration king. One last little tidbit. As far as we know, the Citroën SM is the only car ever designed specifically to seat two men up front and two women in the back. Amazing, no? Happy birthday SM! Maybe in another forty years the world will be ready to embrace you. Read the press release after the jump.

[Source: Citroën]
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Citroën's high performance coupé, the SM, is celebrating its 40th birthday.

The luxury sports tourer, an alliance between Citroën and Maserati, was first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on 11th March 1970 - 40 years ago today.

Technically innovative, with a dynamic, yet supremely comfortable ride experience, the Citroën SM was highly regarded for its futuristic styling, prestigious quality, 'magic-carpet' suspension and outstanding performance - a unique combination of characteristics not available in any other car at the time.

Officially recognised as a truly exceptional vehicle in the early 1970's, the SM placed third in the European Car of the Year Awards in 1971 - the winner was Citroën's GS. The SM also received the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award in the US in 1972.

Powered by a Maserati V6 engine, the SM was one of the fastest front-wheel drive cars of its day, with a top speed in excess of 220km/h (137mph). A competitive performer in motorsport, the SM won its first race at the Morocco Rally in 1971.

Pioneering innovative technology, the SM introduced a new type of variable assist power-steering, which made it easier to manoeuvre at lower speeds and provided greater resistance at higher speeds for improved control and handling.

The car also featured hydro-pneumatic suspension with automatic height correction and six headlamps with automatic levelling. Four power-assisted disc brakes, with independent front and rear circuits, automatically adjusted brake power according to vehicle load and weight distribution.

Renowned SM owners have included U.S. comedian Jay Leno, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, author Graham Greene and actor Lee Majors. French Presidents from Georges Pompidou to Jacques Chirac used two specially modified 4-door convertible 'présidentielle' models, created by coach builder Henri Chapron.

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